for tomorrow



His academic journey started in 2005 – the same year as the birth of Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University – when he kicked off his studies towards obtaining a BCom degree.

And next week Riyaadh Lillah (28), NMMU Business Management lecturer, will walk across the stage to be awarded his doctorate titled “Environmental management systems in South African small and medium-sized businesses”.

Riyaadh says that businesses have been criticised for their contribution towards the rate of destruction of the natural environment. Although businesses have responded by adapting their management practices, production processes and products, they still face a number of challenges in reducing their environmental impact. One way in which businesses have responded to the environmental crisis is by implementing environmental management systems.

“Despite the importance of environmental management implementation, researchers have neglected to identify the factors that could lead to environmental management system implementation in South African small and medium-sized businesses. Indeed, much of the research on environmental management has concentrated on large business in Europe or the United States,” he says.

The limited research that has been conducted on environmental management in small and medium-sized businesses in South Africa has been descriptive in nature, and fails to produce results that can be generalised. With this in mind, the objective of Riyaadh’s study was to develop and test a theoretical model to explain the implementation of environmental management systems in small and medium-sized businesses. 

He adopted a quantitative survey methodology to test the proposed theoretical model. In total, 417 small and medium-sized businesses participated in the survey; 326 of these were not implementing an environmental management system, and 91 were implementing such a system.

The findings of this analysis suggest that those who responded had a favourable attitude toward environmental management systems; they were aware of environmental issues; they perceived themselves and their businesses as able to deal with the barriers to environmental management system implementation; they felt personally obligated to reduce their business environmental impact; and they perceived actions aimed at reducing their businesses’ environmental impact as socially desirable.

Riyaadh first fell in love with the new trend of greening businesses and sustainability in his undergraduate studies at NMMU.

In line with the NMMU value of respect for the natural environment, NMMU residences have gradually established a commitment to sustainable student housing over the last few years. They embarked on a campaign to make the residences more eco-friendly with the aim of creating sustainable residences where students can live in harmony with ecological processes, minimise consumption and waste, and show respect for human dignity and health.

Riyaadh has played an integral role in this initiative.

After matriculating from Brandwag High School in Uitenhage, Riyaadh majored in Business Management and Economics completing his degree in 2008. He then went on to obtain his BCom (Hons) in Business Management in 2009. A year later, he started working on his master’s degree in Business Management, graduating in April 2012.

“Most of my postgraduate research focused on green issues,” he says.

Environmental literacy among NMMU students in the Faculty of Business and Economic Sciences was the focus of his master’s degree studies.

With a goal of obtaining full professorship before the age of 35, Riyaadh is enjoying lecturing close to 1000 first-year Business Management students. However, he sees himself more as a researcher than a lecturer.

“It is my nature to ask questions; so research comes naturally. I always ask how research can be done more effectively,” he says.

“One of the big motivating factors is when students give me their business cards and tell me that they used the information I shared during the lectures. They have guts and also employ other students. There are some brilliant first-years in my class and they keep me motivated as well.”

Apart from lecturing Business Management, he also lectures research methodology and business ethics.

The Uitenhage born and bred academic says his late father Sulyman pushed him to further his studies. Sadly his dad passed away in 2009 while Riyaadh was busy with his honours exams. “I am dedicating my PhD to my dad.”